This Week in the ECAC Women’s League: Jan. 9, 2003

Friday and Saturday’s games against Minnesota-Duluth are the most challenging nonconference games yet for Dartmouth. Only trouble is, when the going gets tough for Dartmouth, its toughest players keep having to go back to Canada.

For the second time this year, the Big Green will be without Cherie Piper, Gillian Apps and Meagan Walton. Dartmouth was also missing the young trio for its 3-1 victory over Brown and its 9-2 defeat against Harvard back in November. Defenseman Correne Bredin will also be absent this time around, leaving Dartmouth with a short roster for its second and third games this year against a Frozen Four favorite. All four players will be at the Canadian national team’s developmental camp in Toronto from Jan. 9 to Jan. 12.

"Some of these other programs are now experiencing what we felt for the last four years. … I don’t feel sympathetic."

— Harvard coach Katey Stone, on players’ national-team obligations.

The Big Green are well off the pace that Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota and Harvard have set at the top, having split with Providence and St. Lawrence earlier this year in addition to the Harvard loss. With the four players gone, Dartmouth’s in serious danger of an 11-5 start, and the NCAA selection committee won’t be giving out any sympathy points if the Big Green end up with three shorthanded defeats.

Should that happen, the Big Green would be hard-pressed to get anything better than a fourth seed due to the head-to-head defeats.

Dartmouth will have two other chances to take on the current top three of women’s college hockey with a home game at Minnesota on Jan. 17 and a rematch with Harvard on Feb. 7. Even after this weekend, the Big Green won’t be free from the grasp of the Canadian national program. Defenseman Louise Pietrangelo has been named to a U-22 roster that will play in Germany during the Harvard game.

All six of the U.S. college players called up for this weekend’s Canadian camp came from the ECAC. The two not from Dartmouth are Harvard’s Jennifer Botterill — the nation’s leading scorer per game — and St. Lawrence’s Gina Kingsbury.

Kingsbury will miss two games against a Connecticut team that closed out its season series against Niagara with an impressive 2-0-1 mark. The Huskies, powered by the return of Kim Berry to the lineup, scored a total of nine goals in a two-game set against the Purple Eagles last weekend. St. Lawrence, meanwhile, has struggled offensively all year, In 10 games against ranked competition, the Saints have tallied more than two goals just twice, but they’ve still managed a 3-5-2 record in those affairs due in large part to the steady goaltending of Rachel Barrie.

The Crimson will miss Botterill for a weekend set at Yale and Princeton. But as one Canadian leaves, another has returned. Ingram, who led the nation in assists last year, has missed all but three games this year due to a thumb injury she sustained in the defeat against Dartmouth. But she played her first game in almost two months and scored in a 9-0 victory over Wayne State last Friday so the Crimson won’t be missing a beat.

In past seasons, Harvard has suffered losses in Botterill’s midseason national-team absences — one to St. Lawrence in 2000 and defeats to Wisconsin and Minnesota in 2001. This time should not be as rough as she is the only player missing, while in past years Tammy Shewchuk has also been a casualty.

“Bottom line is you want those kinds of kids in your program, you want them to have those opportunities, and so you make the best of the situation when it comes,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone prior to this season.

While Harvard was competitive even in Botterill and Shewchuk’s absence in past years, Dartmouth was anything but that in getting beat by the Crimson earlier this year — though in that weekend, the Big Green suffered from the additional disadvantage of having to play a physical Brown team the night before Harvard. Dartmouth will have to learn to adjust without its national team stars.

“Some of these other programs are now experiencing what we felt for the last four years,” Stone said. “I don’t feel sympathetic. It’s a blessing, and it’s a curse to a degree. Dartmouth’s going to be fine. They’ll be better for that down the road. When three or four of those kids aren’t there, the kids who remain will have a lot of pride and they’ll make sure they do the best that they can.”

Princeton coach Jeff Kampersal doesn’t expect an upset of the Crimson to come any easier in Botterill’s absence. Watching a tape of the Harvard power play on Tuesday, he likened the Crimson to the Soviet Union’s Red Army teams. Harvard has been strong on the man advantage no matter who’s out there. The Crimson still led the nation in efficiency last year without the help of any Olympians.

Princeton comes into the Brown-Harvard weekend — the most brutal pairing of the ECAC schedule — on a high note with a 4-3 victory over Providence. The Friars — who have been as competitive as anyone against the likes of UMD, Harvard and Dartmouth but haven’t been winning consistently — could not pull out the game against Princeton despite winning the shot count 50-21, as the Tigers’ Megan Van Beusekom stood on her head.

Kampersal has been pleased with his team’s opportunism as of late, as Princeton has scored eight goals in its last two games against the Friars and Boston College after scoring just twice in its previous three. Gretchen Anderson continues to lead the team with eight goals in just ten games, and the second line this past weekend — Tarah Clark, Lisa Rasmussen, and Susan Hobson — showed promise with three goals in two games including the game-winner against the Friars.

Brown, meanwhile, has struggled on its way in a 6-6-3 start.

Of note, captain Kim Insalaco finally scored her first goal of the season in a victory over Boston College last week that pulled the Bears back to .500. She hadn’t found the net since her dramatic game winners in the national semifinals over Minnesota and the ECAC championship over Dartmouth last year.

Kampersal’s not one to underestimate Brown, however, despite the Bears’ slow start. He knows full well that the Bears have a history of coming on strong in the second half. The question everyone’s asking is when Brown will start to make its usual run.

Some of the ECAC’s brightest stars may be out in Canada this weekend, but back in the States, there are still plenty of good hockey players left to go around.